Women react as the New Zealand national anthem is sung during a national remembrance service in Hagley Park for the victims of the March 15 mosque terrorist attack in Christchurch, New Zealand, Friday, March 29, 2019. (AP Photo/Mark Baker)

At memorial, mosque shooting survivor says he forgives attacker

Farid Ahmed, whose wife was killed in the Christchurch shooting, said he forgave the shooter

A man who survived New Zealand’s mosque attacks told a crowd of about 20,000 people on Friday that he forgives the terrorist who killed his wife and 49 others.

Farid Ahmed was speaking at a national remembrance service held in Christchurch to commemorate those who died in the attacks two weeks ago.

“I don’t want to have a heart that is boiling like a volcano,” Ahmed said. “A volcano has anger, fury, rage. It doesn’t have peace. It has hatred. It burns itself within, and also it burns the surroundings. I don’t want to have a heart like this.”

Ahmed said that while he didn’t agree with the gunman’s actions, his Muslim faith taught him that even the terrorist was his brother.

The name of Ahmed’s wife, Husna Ahmed, was among the 50 read out by members of the Muslim community during a solemn part of the service.

It was the third major memorial held in Christchurch since the March 15 slaughter of worshippers who were inside the two mosques for Friday prayers. Australian Brenton Harrison Tarrant, 28, has been charged with murder in the attacks.

The latest memorial service was a more formal occasion, with Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison and other foreign dignitaries attending.

Morrison later told reporters the service “was a thing of absolute beauty.”

New Zealand’s police force put on a show of force, closing down nearby streets and patrolling the park with semi-automatic weapons. But the atmosphere was relaxed during the 90-minute commemoration held on a sunny morning in Hagley Park.

New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern, who wore an indigenous Maori cloak, said the world had been stuck in a vicious cycle of extremism which must end. She said her country had learned the stories of those impacted by the attacks.

“They were stories of bravery. They were stories of those who were born here, grew up here, or who had made New Zealand their home. Who had sought refuge, or sought a better life for themselves or their families,” she said. “These stories, they now form part of our collective memories. They will remain with us forever. They are us.”

The featured musical guest was British singer Yusuf Islam, also known as Cat Stevens, who converted to Islam in 1977.

“We learn about things through their opposites,” the singer said. “And it’s through opposites like this, the evilness of that act and what drove it, we find its opposite, which is the love and kindness and unity that has sprung up right here in New Zealand.”

A particularly poignant moment came when a girl named Salma, the daughter of slain worshipper Ashraf El-Moursy Ragheb, briefly got up on stage to remember her dad.

“He was a really nice man,” she said.

READ MORE: Facebook extends ban on hate speech to ‘white nationalists’

READ MORE: ‘It doesn’t open’: Christchurch mosque survivors describe terror at door

Nick Perry, The Associated Press

Just Posted

BC Transit incorporates North Okanagan route changes

Changes coming June 2 to routes in Coldstream and Armstrong

UPDATED 6:15 P.M.: Serious accident closes portion of Highway 6 in Vernon

Car and pickup involved in collision near Pottery Road just after 5 p.m.; detours around scene

Vernon baseball players land U.S. deals, help teammate battle cancer

Four Vernon players on Okanagan Athletics heading south to play ball at college

Vernon tattoo fundraiser draws tons of support

Lineup around the block for start and beginning of Five Fathoms Tattoo event for Children’s Hospital

Vernon Tigers, South Okanagan Flames play to wild draw

Thompson Okanagan Junior Lacrosse League match ends 17-17; overtime solves nothing

Weather holds up for Rutland May Days

60th annual May Day midway, market and entertainment saw hundreds of attendees

Raptors beat Bucks 118-112 in 2OT thriller

Leonard has 36 points as Toronto cuts Milwaukee’s series lead to 2-1

South Okanagan runners take top spots in Peach City RunFest

Both the top male and female half-marathon winners were from Penticton

Former Greyhound Canada employees gather in Okanagan to say a final farewell

“Greyhound may take our jobs but they will never take our friendships,” says former bus driver

Kelowna firefighters douse blaze in hedges

The cause of the fire on Renfrew Road is under investigation.

‘Teams that win are tight’: B.C. Lions search for chemistry at training camp

The Lions added more than 50 new faces over the off-season, from coaching staff to key players

Rescue crews suspend search for Okanagan kayaker missing for three days

71-year-old Zygmunt Janiewicz was reported missing Friday

Okanagan Springtime Regatta draws more than 50 sailboats

Sailors treated to windy, excellent long weekend conditions on Okanagan Lake in Kelowna

B.C. VIEWS: Reality of our plastic recycling routine exposed

Turns out dear old China wasn’t doing such a great job

Most Read